I now continue sharing some of the lessons I learned from walking the historic pilgrimage route in France and Spain, the Camino Frances, over six weeks in May and June. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Fear or a negative attitude can prevent us from getting to where we want to be or getting what we want. We saw this time and again on our walk. Allow me to share two such stories that stand out in my mind:
One day toward the beginning of our trip we had a very long, tiring journey. We arrived into a city, and had difficulty finding the hostel. We went up and down streets, stopped for directions a few times, and finally a kind local resident point us to where we wanted to be. It was raining, and by the time we got there we were very water logged. It took a long time to check in, but we were finally rewarded with semi-private rooms, a nice change from the large dorm rooms with up to 100 people. That evening we gathered together for a communal dinner in the hostel with friends we had met along the way as well as new friends. We were thankful for having made it through a trying day and discussed the next day, which was to take us once again into higher ground.
One woman said nervously, "we are supposed to have electrical storms tomorrow. I don't think we should walk. I don't want to be up on a mountain in an electrical storm." This was news to us. Since we didn't have access to radio or TV typically, we weren't always in touch with the weather forecasts. While it had rained all day, we had no lightning. "I can't do it. I'm not walking," she started to panic, and to get others panicky as well.
The thing with the Camino is, if you stay in a hostel, you can only stay one night. And you cannot move to another hostel in the same place. So, you are urged to carry on. My friends and I debated what to do. We finally decided to stay optimistic and carry on the next day, hope for the best in the weather, but be prepared to stop if things got too hairy.
The next day we set out. It was a little damp out, but not too rainy. We were in good spirits. One of the first things we would see was a public wine fountain on the side of one of the winery buildings. That was cause for many jokes and much joviality. Those who tried the wine said it was not good, but it was fun nonetheless. Although it was a little overcast, we had little rain and beautiful views of the vineyards as we walked up hilly inclines. We passed through ancient towns, saw a monastery and many churches. We were up in shepherd land and saw interesting shepherd huts and other structures we were unfamiliar with.
Overall we had a fantastic day, a fine walk, and did not see any lightning. There was a lot of joy that day in the walk, with strangers become friends and people singing all along the way (I think that was the only day we really heard singing). We reached our destination, and were so happy we had kept a positive spirit, not worrying about the possible storm that never materialized.
Later that evening we ran into the woman who had been so worried. We asked how she had gotten there. It turns out that her fear had indeed gotten the best of her, and she had taken a taxi to the next destination. And, she had missed one of the most glorious days we had on the road. While everyone has to approach the journey in his or her own way, I was a little sad for her. I wondered if she was always a pessimist, and if so if she had missed out on other things because of it.
A number of days later we stopped for a bite to eat in the town before our final destination for the day. San Bol was where we were headed, a hostel with only 12 beds. We were looking forward to the intimate atmosphere. The town we arrived in for lunch, however, was full of activity. Many, many pilgrims had arrived all at once, and were looking for lodging. All hostels were full, and apparently the kind townspeople were looking for space wherever they could to accommodate the growing crowds–church, school, wherever there was room to lay a mat and sleeping bag.
My friends and I enjoyed our lunch, but were soon joined by another woman we had not met before. She questioned our plan to carry on to the hostel 7 km down the road. "What are you going to do if it is full? I bet it's full." We had decided to stay optimistic: "If it is full we will go on to the next town. If we are too tired, we will take a taxi." "Ppffft. There are no taxis. You will not have a place to sleep," she said. We were a little put off by the negativity. As we were leaving, her final words to us were, "Good luck finding a taxi!"
I have to admit, the negativity ate at us. We got worried. Only 12 beds at the next stop, and we counted up more than 12 of us walking the path. How would this work out? We started to go faster, and suddenly it felt like a race. When we finally reached San Bol, three of us crossed our fingers and inquired about beds.
It turns out there were four beds still available, and we need not have feared. So many people had thought it would be full that other people did not stop, and there was even a bed empty for the night. We had a lovely stop at this little oasis–it was not part of a town, but instead was a hostel built at a site for healing spring waters. Once settled in, we relaxed outside, chatting with the other pilgrims and braving the cold water of the springs to dip our feet in. For dinner the hospitalero made us two wonderful paellas which we ate at the round table for 12 people (one seat was empty), and then enjoyed the evening light reading outside until almost sunset (truth be told, the sun set after I went to sleep). And I remembered that woman at lunch, and wondered what kind of night she had. I never did see her again.
How many times have you tried to do something new at work and heard: "We've always done it this way. We don't need to change things"? Or "That will never fly with these people"? With this kind of attitude, you end up not even trying. And not even seeing all that can be achieved.
I much prefer being the optimist–perhaps almost taking it to the point of naivety–because you don't know until you try whether something is going to work. And so many times we try and succeed.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies: fear or a negative attitude can prevent us from living up to our full potential. Fear of change prevents us from doing something great in our work.
To be great, it sometimes just takes a bit of faith–faith in oneself, in the universe and in the journey.
Other posts in this series:
- Lessons From the Road: On Being Engaged (July 8, 2013)
- Lessons From the Road: Slow Down to Get Ahead (July 29, 2013)
"Pilgrim wine tasting". Taken by Connie Crosby May 2013
"Dinner is served at San Bol". Taken by Connie Crosby May 2013